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Gourmet Blogger Finding The Hidden Influencers In San Francisco

Carina Ost's job is to find the friends, family and co-workers who are the most influential marketers in a consumer’s life

By  Harriet Murdoch

Tue Nov 22 2011

Carina Ost is an Account Manager for a marketing communications agency that specialise in word of mouth, social media and traditional channels of public relations. Based in San Francisco the company, Ink Foundry, are specialists in the food and wine industry.

Carina, 25, has an undergraduate degree in Business Management and an MBA both from Woodbury University in Los Angeles. Between studying she travelled Europe with a friend on a shoestring budget for accommodation but had a spending spree in the most ritzy restaurants of Europe. “As soon as we got back from the trip we set up a lifestyle company, Uncouth Gourmands, a multimedia lifestyle brand.”

Running a lifestyle company was exciting and the founders were in high demand, however for Carina “my only regret was my entire business school career was working on this one business. You have to try it to see what part of it you like and I loved the entrepreneurial, female, business side, being self-motivated. I now work for an agency and have a boss but I work from home and am self-motivated.”

Having been to school without a break, going straight from undergrad to MBA, Carina realises she is good at meeting deadlines but less so at working for other people. Having set up a blog detailing her foodie adventures in Los Angeles she moved back to San Francisco and carried on writing. “I went from knowing all the restaurants, chefs and PR people in LA to knowing no-one in San Francisco. I wrote a blog about rabbit pot pie and the food editor of San Francisco Weekly sent me a direct message inviting me to write for them. I now write for several websites and work in food and wine PR. However PR is too simple a term as we work in creating new avenues of thought.”

Carina’s company specialise in strategic marketing, pinpointing the ‘hidden influencers’ to create word of mouth marketing. “My boss was working for a steakhouse and trying to think who to approach to bring in to the steakhouse. Rather than bring in huge media, the heavy hitters in Hollywood are the assistants to the directors and actors. It is in an interesting approach and it is true that where people are getting the most information is not where you might think, e.g. the review critic, but perhaps the person in the office who always has cool places to eat.”

The company follow what people are tweeting about, where they are checking in on Foursquare. Using tools like Klout you can check the amount of influence a person has on Twitter and directly approach them. “I work with a steakhouse and for fathers day we knew there were so many mothers blogs, so we vetted people and found some top dad bloggers and asked if they wanted to do a giveaway on their site. We gave them a voucher and a voucher to give away as a prize. These things are engaging and personal, show the business and start conversations.”

Another example was approaching fashion bloggers to come and try new 99 calorie cocktails at another steakhouse in California. “Called ‘The BeautyFull Girls Guide To Surviving The Steakhouse’ the event showed different trends of what food people ordered and was an interesting engagement with a normally disassociated market.”

For Carina the most important social media tool is Twitter, “especially moving into a technological city such as San Francisco. Even if I am home by myself I am a social person and I can still be interacting with people.”

Carina’s advice for start-ups is to become engaged with all social media channels, “there is a lot you can do with a little budget. At Uncouth Gourmands we wrote out website on bar napkins and handed them out. You just have to be a bit creative.”
Carina is sure that she will eventually go back into start-ups but admits she is “too scared now to be tied down to any desk, one client, one voice.”